NEWS SCAN: Vibrio in oysters, food safety fee opposition, bottled water recall, virus detection in buildings, prion test

May 10, 2011

FDA links vibriosis cases to Florida oyster area
An investigation into eight confirmed and one suspected Vibrio infection in people who ate raw or lightly steamed oysters in Florida triggered a warning today from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to avoid eating or selling oysters harvested from a growing area in Apalachicola Bay, Fla. In a press release the FDA said a trace-back investigation revealed the oysters came from area 1642, a 2-mile area east of a bridge that goes from Eastpoint, Fla., to St. George Island, Fla. The patients with toxigenic Vibrio cholerae O75 infections are from Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Indiana. Florida officials closed the growing area on Apr 29 and have asked harvesters and dealers to recall oysters that were harvested from the area. The oysters that sickened the patients were harvested between Mar 21 and Apr 6. V cholerae O75 is related to the V cholerae O1 and O139 strains that causes cholera epidemics, but the O75 strain causes less severe, self-limiting illness.
May 10 FDA statement

Meat producers urge lawmakers to reject new food safety fees
A collection of 25 trade groups representing the meat, poultry, and egg industries sent a letter yesterday to a US Senate group working on federal deficit issues to drop an Obama Administration plan, legislation that has not been submitted yet, to impose taxes and fees to cover a host of federal inspection activities, Food Safety News (FSN) reported today. The letter noted that food safety inspection is a public health activity that benefits everyone and should be funded by appropriations. The group added that food inspections are required by law and have been funded by tax dollars for the past century. An earlier fiscal commission report proposed similar fees, but they were dropped from the final report, FSN reported. One fee in the Obama Administration's proposal would reportedly cover routine actions, such as risk assessments, hazard analyses, and inspection planning. A second one is a performance-based fee that would pay for additional inspections, follow-up sampling, and other actions required as part of the response to a foodborne illness outbreak. The lobby groups claimed that burden for the new fees would be heaviest on low- and middle-income families.
May 10 FSN story
May 9 American Meat Institute press release

Mold findings prompt bottled water recall
An Arkansas company is recalling certain lots of its Mountain Pure brand bottled water after tests conducted by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) found mold contamination, according to a May 4 FDA statement. The affected water was found in a shipment ordered by the city of Clinton, Ark., for use while some communities are under a precautionary boil orders to reduce the possibility of diarrheal illness. The area was recently hit by severe storms. The recalled lots have the time codes from 2200 through 0400 etched onto the plastic bottles. The 16.9-ounce bottles have best-by dates of Feb 27 or Feb 28, 2013.  William Mason, MD, MPH, chief of emergency preparedness at the ADH, said the chance of illness in healthy people who drink the contaminated water is unlikely, but he said the risk may be higher in people with weakened immune systems. Tests are ongoing to identify the type of mold and how the water became contaminated.
May 4 FDA statement

Buildings' HVAC filters test positive for airborne viruses
Samples collected from filters used in heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems of buildings may be used to detect airborne viruses, according to a new study. Researchers studied representative pieces from used HVAC filters from two large public buildings in Minneapolis and Seattle and tested for influenza, parainfluenza, respiratory syncytial, corona-, adeno-, orthopox-, entero-, Ebola, Marburg, Lassa fever, and equine encephalitis viruses. Samples cut from the filters, which process vast amounts of air, were eluted with a buffer solution and evaluated using Vero, MDCK, and RK-13 cell cultures but did not yield any live viruses. With polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or reverse-transcription PCR, however, 9 of the 64 filters showed DNA or RNA of influenza A, 2 filters were positive for influenza B, and 1 was positive for parainfluenza virus 1. The authors conclude, "These findings indicate that existing building HVAC filters may be used as a method of detection for airborne viruses" and may be used as "possible deterrents against the spread of bioterrorism agents."
May 9 Am J Infect Control abstract

Report describes new test for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have developed a test to detect variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in blood plasma that is 10,000 times more sensitive than existing methods, according to a press release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) yesterday. The illness is a type of human prion disease that leads to brain damage and death; its counterpart in cattle is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. The NIAID team also used the test to rapidly detect scrapie, a prion disease of sheep, in infected hamsters, including presymptomatic ones. Collaborating with scientists from Switzerland-based Prionics AG, the NIAID researchers combined an antibody-based approach with an improved "real-time quaking-induced protein conversion (RT-QuIC)" reaction. RT-QuIC detects when prion protein converts to an abnormal form. The resulting test, which they call enhanced QuIC (eQuIC), may help in routinely detecting low levels of abnormal prions in tissues, fluids, or environmental samples, according to the release. The team plans to study eQuIC for diagnosing various prion diseases in different animals.
May 9 NIH press release

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